Chinatown in Bangkok: the Multilingual Landscape

  • Hongmei Wu Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  • Sethawut Techasan Chulalongkorn University, Thailand


This paper examines the linguistic landscape (shop names) of Chinatown in Bangkok, a prosperous minority language (Chinese) community of diverse commercial establishments. Informed by an ethnographic framework, it explores the preservation of Chinese language and culture under the circumstance of language contact with Thai, the majority language, and globalization influence of English. Unsurprisingly, the inherited Chinese language (dialects as Teochew or Cantonese) was lost in the 2nd or 3rd generation of the Chinese descendants in Chinatown. However, the shop names suggest that in part because of its commodifying value and cultural awareness of the current proprietors, the Chinese shop owners are inclined to preserve the Chinese language and culture of the shops through the use of traditional Chinese characters, colors, layout and other marks of the shops. On the other hand, an analysis of the mutual translations of Chinese and Thai indicates that Chinese has more of a symbolic rather than informative function for Thai monolingual customers. Moreover, the ascendancy of English has contributed to the complexity of the multilingual landscape in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

Author Biographies

Hongmei Wu, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Sethawut Techasan, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand